In a world seemingly out to obliterate any belief in Jesus Christ, if there was ever any time to examine the historical accuracy of the New Testament, it is now. Enter Rice Broocks’ Man, Myth Messiah- Answering History’s Greatest Question, a book providing the evidence for the historicity of Jesus and the inspiration for the new movie, God’s Not Dead 2. Included are rebuttals for the arguments used by many skeptics against Christianity today and solid arguments called “minimal facts” that the vast majority of historians accept as evidence for not only the existence of Christ, but also for his resurrection.
This book was personally a godsend for a woman like I am- someone who has a passion for God and Christian apologetics but who also feels a bit timid about presenting these truths to people who have not yet believed. Besides examining the reliability of the New Testament and looking into the “truths” set forth by the skeptics, Broocks also provides a clear plan for how to approach people with the gospel, armed with the advantage of knowing how to address the common fallacies perpetuated by well-known skeptics that are spread like talking points throughout the world of atheism.
Man, Myth, Messiah is a timely gift to those of us who wish to spread the good news of Jesus Christ equipped to interact with a world gone mad. Reiterating what I expressed before, if there was ever a time for this book, it is now.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Booklook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are completely my own.
(If you’re interested in a more detailed example of our homeschooling days, click here.)
I can’t believe another week has gone by! Time flies when you’re having fun, right?? While last week my kids were enjoying the warm weather all week, as I write this post, I’m sitting in my dining room in a sweatshirt, next to a space heater, shivering. Gotta love this fickle weather.
Anyway…this week my kids got much more book work done than last week, but we also accomplished quite a few other things, as well.
On Monday, I accidentally stumbled upon a new snack idea for the kids. Since I have to make so many waffles for breakfast at one time, I usually put them in the oven instead of the toaster. I happened to get…umm…sidetracked and forgot they were in the oven, and if there’s anything my kids hate, it’s crunchy waffles. Desperate to save some time and avoid making something else, I came upon the idea of waffles and ice cream in a chip and dip platter. (Okay, two things- I know ice cream is a horrible breakfast idea, but, hey, it was Monday :P, and the reason I thought of using the ice cream was to make my hard waffles softer. Phew! I feel much better confessing, so now I can move on…)
The kids ended up really enjoying it, and I promise I will only use this idea for snacks from here on in!
On Tuesday, five of my kids had dentist appointments, so on the way home from there, I stopped by the local polling place to vote in the primary election. Since the 2-yr.-old threw up in the van (my kids always get sick after the dentist, do yours?), my oldest daughter sat with her and the 4-yr.-old while I took two of my other daughters in with me while I voted. This is an actual conversation with my 11-yr.-old as we walked through the parking lot:
Daughter: Mom, who are you going to vote for?
Me: Ted Cruz.
Daughter: Isn’t he an actor?
Me: (Cracking up) No, that’s Tom Cruise.
One hour later…
Older daughter: So who did you vote for?
Me: Tom…I mean Ted Cruz.
And now on to the fun stuff:
The younger children finished up Lentil this week by learning about acoustics by singing in the bathroom, testing taste buds by eating sour candy, singing Fifty Nifty United States, and learning how to use shading when drawing.
Here, my youngest decided to showcase her artistic prowess by decorating our bathroom wall.
The Big Kids:
We’ve still been reading through Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone together, although all three kids have started new books for their silent reading. The 8-yr.-old is reading Mummies in the Morning (Magic Tree House), the 10-yr.-old is reading Dork Diaries No. 10, and the 11-yr.-old is reading Horns and Wrinkles. They’ve spent most of this week preparing for a report they’re going to be writing tomorrow and next week. We’ve also been doing lots of fun activities which emphasize how books are categorized at the library. They really seem to enjoy these and are excited for the scavenger hunt we have planned tomorrow which goes along with this theme. Besides that, they’ve been doing all kinds of art projects on their own (as they always are).
My 14- and 16-yr.-olds spent quite a bit of time at the creek this week looking for snakes and other critters. My son actually went there for several hours almost every single day, and this experience has motivated him to become an amateur wildlife photographer.
My oldest daughter, who is turning 17 on Sunday, spent a lot of time with our oldest son, who is 22, this week. Although he is over five years older than her, they get along wonderfully, and they share many of the same friends. Tonight she went to an alternative gallery with some of her friends. She visits there several times a month and is planning on showing some of her work there in the near future. This was one of her favorite pieces she saw there today:
Book-wise, my son is still working through several WWII books, while the 17-yr.-old is still reading Dante’s Inferno and the 14-yr.-old has started The Rise and Fall of Adolf Hitler. Believe it or not, neither of these books were assigned to them. They chose them on their own. 🙂
So that’s where we’re at in our homeschool right now. What have you been up to?
Finding balance within your homeschool is the key to superior learning, and some unschooling philosophies can play a key role in that.
After writing yesterday’s post about our experience with unschooling, I began to wonder if I was able to adequately convey our good experiences with it. I fear that there was a bit of negativity at the end, and I felt the need to clarify myself.
I am not against unschooling. I feel that some of its philosophies about allowing children to pursue their own interests and using life as a curriculum hit the nail right on the head. I have seen first-hand how much children learn when they have a vested interest in something. In fact, our family still uses natural learning as an important part of our homeschooling routine. Our structured learning normally takes only about two hours a day, while the rest of the day is open for my children to engage in anything they find useful and interesting.
What this has looked like this past week has been my son deciding that he would like to become a wildlife photographer after spending hours at the creek every day taking photos like these:
Spending six hours a day doing structured school work would have prevented him from committing the time he did towards this project. Is this as valuable as book work? I’d have to say that this holds even more value because this is something he initiated on his own and will, therefore, remember all the better.
Before our unschool experiment, I would have scoffed if he had asked me to go to the creek during the school day every single day for an entire week. I would have lectured him about the importance of getting an education. Unschooling taught me to recognize that this is an education.
It also gave me the ability to see the worth in seemingly mundane things that many parents overlook. Caring for a sick baby bird. Making homemade paint out of sidewalk chalk. Helping the neighbor in her garden. These are all things I would happily set aside school work for in order to pursue.
Does this mean I do not assign value to book learning? Absolutely not. I am a self-professed nerd, and I realize that there are some things that are better learned with some structure- usually some sort of book, but not always.
It all comes down to balance. At the end of the day- at least with my children- there are some things which are best learned when they are taught, and there are other things best left to experience in real life. This is what homeschooling is all about. Finding the balance that is right for your family and allowing the joy that follows to shine through.
For more photos like these, you can follow my son on Instagram!
Ever wonder what unschooling is actually all about? Join me as I give an honest review of what this homeschooling approach was really like for our family.
Mention the word “unschooling” to someone in your homeschool group, and you’re likely to get one of two extreme reactions- elation or disdain. When it comes to this controversial homeschool approach, it can be very difficult, indeed, to find a middle-of-the-roader. From the very beginning of my homeschooling days, I was mesmerized by the thought of learning with no curriculum. No books? No seatwork? No daily mother/child struggles? It sounded too good to be true. Nonetheless, after several years of homeschooling with varying methods and finding none that I felt was the perfect fit, I decided to venture into the world of unschooling.
I transitioned slowly into this new way of life. I still had read-aloud routines everyday, and we still used a math curriculum, but other than that, my children were free to spend their time as they chose. It was difficult for me at first. I’ve always been a planner and a bit of a- ahem!- control freak, so allowing my kids to take the lead on their education was difficult for me.
After several months, I relaxed a bit and began to see education in an entirely different way. I was able to see the value in little things like making paper dolls, playing with Legos, and even watching construction crews working on the street. My aversion to video games grew less and less, and I was able to identify the many skill-building tasks involved in each one. I nearly jumped for joy when one of my daughters took apart a light-up toy and afterwards was able to explain to me how an electrical circuit works.
Each of my children was busy finding out what they truly loved by being granted the time to do so. My oldest daughter immersed herself in Japanese anime and online manga and went on to learn not only the Japanese language but both sets of writing characters. She also began drawing her own anime-type illustrations and attended classes in drawing and painting, narrative illustration, and flash animation. Additionally, she began designing and sewing her own cosplay costumes for anime conventions.
Another daughter grew interested in theatrical makeup and made herself busy by painting her siblings’ faces every single day. She also made her own makeup products.
And yet another daughter grew so fascinated with crane and candy machines that she actually figured out how to make her own working candy machine out of Legos.
I could go on and on with stories like this, but I think you get the picture. These- these– are the positive moments most associated with unschooling.
Not every day was like this. In fact, the vast majority of days were not. There were days of complaints about boredom, bickering- lots of it, and fighting over the TV. And then there were the desperate cries of, “Mom, when are we going to start doing school again?”
But instead of picking up our old homeschool routine where we left off, I headed to unschooling message boards, where people would imply that I must somehow be doing something wrong because no child would ever prefer to do school work.
After hours and weeks of reading radical unschooling blogs and books, I eventually decided that that must be the problem. I needed to institute whole-life unschooling, meaning not only giving the children the reins on their education, but on their lives, in general. Thankfully, as a Christian, I was never able to go quite as far as some of these parents do, but what I did begin to allow had a very damaging effect on our family.
Since radical unschoolers have the philosophy of not making a child do anything he or she doesn’t want to, that meant that I was stuck doing all of the housework myself. (Not easy when you’re cleaning up after twelve people!) My kids spent tons of time watching TV and playing video games, which I do believe have value within limits, and absolutely no time reading.
So, the blissful home life that I set out for became a household of chaos, complete with a very crabby mommy.
Finally, I announced to my children that we were going to start completing some structured school work again, and chores would be re-instituted. Was there a mutiny? Nope. They looked relieved.
So what did I take away from this experience? There are several things:
Unschooling can be a beautiful way to learn, but every child- yes, every child– needs direction and, dare I say, instruction on how the world works.
Contrary to what many radical unschoolers believe, children are not miniature adults. They are children, who need guidance in making decisions and, most importantly, need to be “trained up in the way they should go.” They do not have the same life experience that adults do and should not be expected to.
Children who are allowed to do absolutely whatever they want to become children that no one wants to play with. I have heard more than a few stories of how people at homeschool conventions could always pick out the children who were unschoolers because they were the ones that all of the other children stayed away from.
As much as I believe that children need to be given the gift of learning at their own pace, if you reach the point that your 12-yr.-old does not yet know how to write or your 15-yr.-old still writes his numbers backwards, it is time to intervene.(And it probably should have happened long ago.)
Unschooling your child does not mean that textbooks are forbidden, although there are some unschoolers who would say otherwise. If your child asks for a workbook to learn how to read, get her one. You are not doing anything wrong. In fact, you are probably doing something right because your child is interested in the first place.
Don’t become a slave to labels. Just because you identify as an unschooler does not mean that you have to do everything a certain way. Only you know your child. Use that to your advantage. That’s one of the beauties of homeschooling- having the freedom of choosing how to educate your children.
Before I invoke the wrath of unschoolers everywhere, this is not an attack on the homeschooling method itself but on the dogmatic approach many people employ. Natural learning is an amazing thing, but, like I say about curriculum, take advantage of the unschooling lifestyle. Don’t let it take advantage of you.
Learning is not one-size-fits all, so why should your child’s education be?
In last week’s post I addressed the issue of safety in public schools. Today I’m moving on from there to examine the importance of personalized learning as a means to a successful education.
Personalized learning isn’t something one usually thinks of when thinking about public school. In fact, as I searched for stock images to use for the photo here today, I simply typed in the word “learning” and found that almost all of the pictures that came up had something to do with desks, books, and classrooms.
Why is that? I’m going to venture a guess that when many of us set out to learn something on our own, we are not going to run to our desk, shut the door, and plop open a huge textbook. Yet that is the accepted image of what learning looks like because that is how it is done in school.
But what if learning doesn’t look like that for you? What if it doesn’t look like that for your child? Chances are, if they are in school, they are going to be singled out as “special education” students. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, you might say; and for those students who truly do have learning disabilities, it surely is not such a bad thing. But what about those students who are simply wired differently?
Mounds of evidence have recently been produced detailing the complex differences in how people are wired and how they learn. Indeed, there are people who thrive in a school setting- I was one of them- but to assume that all people should be able to do so does a great injustice to the millions upon millions of intelligent people who would greatly benefit from a different approach to education.
For those unlucky students who are singled out as “special education,” the harm done outweighs any good that may be done through the schools, no matter what the school’s intentions.
During my children’s time in public school, one of my sons was recognized (labeled) as being delayed in reading comprehension when he was in 4th grade. Naively, I assumed that the teachers knew what they were doing and agreed to an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) to help him with this. The help that he received was minimal, and the only input I received from one of his aides was that, “He understands better if it’s about something he’s interested in.” Well, duh. He needed an IEP to find this out? How many adults have a hard time reading about things they have no interest in, let alone a 9-year-old?
After about a year, I was informed that he no longer required assistance, but that they recommended that we keep his IEP in place, just in case. Again, I trusted that they knew best, so I signed another one. The following year I withdrew my children to homeschool them, and I received a letter from the school district stating that I needed to have a Special Education teacher approve his homeschooling objectives because of his IEP. (This is in the PA Homeschool Law.) I called the district and explained that, while the IEP was still in place, he hadn’t actually been receiving any special instruction because he no longer needed it. Since he still technically was listed as Special Ed., however, I did have to comply.
After about a year of homeschooling him, we moved, and he asked if he could try school again because he wanted to see what middle school was all about. I reluctantly agreed. The new school took notice of his former IEP and decided to start putting him in special classes again. I told them that this wasn’t necessary, but they said they would just try it for a while. A few months in, I noticed that he was bringing home reading homework that was equivalent to what I was teaching his 3rd grade sister who was four grades behind him. I resolved then and there to take him back out and homeschool all of my children through graduation.
I called the Special Education Department of our school district and told them I wanted his IEP removed. A few days later I received a phone call from his learning support teacher telling me that he wasn’t ready to have his IEP removed. I immediately informed her that he had received straight A’s, and I was confident he would do just fine. I also explained that he wouldn’t be coming back in the fall anyway because I was planning on homeschooling him again. She reluctantly agreed. (I’d like to add that she had to because the law says that an IEP must be withdrawn if a parent requests it.)
Shortly afterward I discussed this ordeal with a friend of mine who is a retired teacher from that district, and she told me to never allow the schools to label any of my children because once they are labeled, they are always labeled. This is obviously bad for the students but lucrative for the schools who receive federal funding for these programs. The more students with IEP’s, the more money.
The ill effects of our experience with the Special Education label have not ended. Years later, my son still considers himself to be unintelligent and slow because that is exactly what was ground into him during that period of his life. I am not saying this was intentional, but that is exactly what happened, nonetheless.
The stigma of school-sponsored labels has no place in a home learning environment. One of the most awesome things about homeschooling is the fact that we, as parents, have the autonomy to educate our children in the way that we see fit. If they do well with textbooks, then that’s what we can do. If they need to move around quite a bit, we can offer lots of hands-on activities with shorter stints of written work. If our children love to read, what better way to learn than by reading a good historical fiction or any other books written by people with a passion for the subject? As a matter of fact, children who love to read can easily be the least expensive children to educate because the library is free!
Understandably, schools cannot and will not tailor their curriculum to meet the needs of each individual student. It would either require far more resources than schools could ever have, or it would necessitate a complete overhaul of the entire government school system, and I think we all know the likelihood of that ever happening.
So as it stands, parents of children who are not flourishing in the school environment simply because of learning styles have two options. We can either go with the status quo and agree to have our children labeled for life, or we can bring them home and design a method of learning that will work best for them, no matter what that method may be.
Now tell me, which sounds like the better option to you?
Join me next week as I address the issue of including our own values in our children’s education!
If you’re anything like I am, there are some days that you just can’t seem to get yourself moving. These are the days you spend lazily browsing blog after blog and website after website, trying to find something that will interest you for at least a little while. Since these days are usually on the weekends for me, I’ve decided to share links with you each Saturday. These will include 5 of my favorite blog posts from other bloggers, 5 of my own that you may not have seen, and 5 books I think are worth reading. I hope you enjoy!
It’s been about two years since I’ve written a weekly review post, and there has been one major change since then- we no longer identify as unschoolers and have settled in as relaxed homeschoolers. While unschooling can and does work for many families, the lack of structure and direction created some chaos in our lives.
I’ve learned a lot from our stint with unschooling, however, and feel that while some book work is necessary, it is hardly the most important part of our homeschool. Having said that, I’ve decided that if I am going to resume these review posts, for the most part I will not be focusing too much on our seat work and will instead focus on the parts of our weeks that I truly consider to be either highlights or developments that made this week different from the last.
Since I know so many people are curious as to how homeschooling can work with ten kids in the house, I have written a post that better addresses the technicalities of our daily routine.
Now on with the show!
This week has been one of those weeks that we really let life take the lead and backed off a bit on doing much structured learning. Our week started with two of my children taking their state-mandated standardized tests. (One on Monday and one on Tuesday)
We are really blessed in that our state only requires standardized tests in grades 3, 5, and 8 and in that my children were able to do these online at home, but it did not take away the stress that both of my children felt from doing them. After having one child in tears and another loudly complaining that she hates “school.” I am dreading having to go through this again with two more of my children next year.
While I’d be perfectly happy if we never had to see another test like that again, it was so refreshing to watch my son outside playing with the water table during his breaks. It just absolutely reinforced my beliefs in the benefits of homeschooling, because how many school children get to do things like that during their testing time?
Earlier in the week, Sunday to be precise, I went out to get the newspaper and found a headline glaring at me, stating how unsafe our city’s schools are. Apparently our school district had almost 3,000 incidents of violence by students that had to be reported to the Department of Education in the 2014-2015 school year alone. Add to that the fact that during that school term, the police had to be called 500 times and students were arrested 300 times. And the cherry on top was the story of a third grader who wrapped his hands around another child’s neck during breakfast in the cafeteria, and it turned out that this was the child’s 14th discipline report in seven weeks. Again, all I can say is, hallelujah for homeschooling.
Wednesday I helped take my disabled brother to a doctor’s appointment, so we actually did not do anything school-related that day at all. It was a well-timed break, though, after the stressful testing days. The rest of our week has been mainly activities-based, which is how they like it. Since I break my kids down into three groups in our homeschooling routine, I’ll do the same here to give you a picture of what was accomplished this week.
The Littles- Ages 7, 6, 4 (and sometimes the 2-yr.-old)
We’ve been reading the book Lentil this week and did some accompanying activities from our FIAR curriculum, such as mapping, coloring the US flag, and learning some shading techniques for an art project. We also talked about uniqueness and jealousy and worked on some character trait issues.
The Big Kids- Ages 11, 10, and 8
We’ve been reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone together, and the kids have been reading books from the Encyclopedia Brown series because they work well with the research/reference unit study we’re doing right now. We’ve been practicing looking for information using library resources and actually took a field trip there today, so that they could choose books for their upcoming reports and better learn how to tell the difference in the placement of fiction and non-fiction books on the shelves.
As an aside, I’ve got to say that I was horrified when I found out today that a young boy was assaulted in the men’s room of our library. Our library. Add to that the fact that our mayor is being investigated by the FBI for bribery charges, and you’ve got a pretty clear picture of the state that our city is in right now.
The Teens- Ages 16, 16, and 14
My oldest daughter has been reading a modern English version of Dante’s Inferno, while my younger daughter just finished The Book Thief. My son isn’t much of a reader, so he’s just been reading through some non-fiction books about WWII from the library and taking some notes from them. The three of them actually did get the vast majority of their assigned work done this week since they mainly do it on their own (with exception to math, of course- sigh). Otherwise, my oldest daughter’s been painting quite a bit with her acrylics. She hopes to sell some of her work online in the future and has been working at perfecting her artistic style. My son has been out and about with his friends quite a bit, bike riding, playing basketball, and watching a volleyball game at the middle school. My younger daughter has been going through a phase where I pretty much have to force her to come out of her room and get some fresh air. She does go for walks with her sister and me, and we’ve been lamenting the fact that the cherry blossoms have already turned green! Sniff.
The Oldest- Age 22
Okay, I know he’s technically the 11th kid I’ve mentioned and the title of the post is “A Tale of TEN Homeschoolers,” and I know that he isn’t homeschooled (he’s actually in college), BUT I felt like I had to include him because he’s still one of my children, and, with all the editing and proofreading I do for his college papers, sometimes I feel like he IS my 11th homeschooler.
He has been having some issues recently with conflicting responsibilities because he has a huge workload right now for school, and he also has some classes he needs to take for the army (he’s in reserves) because he’s supposed to be going to Germany this summer for some training thing. (I don’t know the technical term). Hopefully, he’ll be able to figure something out that will satisfy both needs.
And that’s about it. I’m looking forward to a beautiful weekend and can’t wait to see what next week will bring!
Every day millions upon millions of parents send their children off to school without a second thought. Schools are good, right? They’re there to educate the future of America, aren’t they?
What would you think if I told you that that’s not what schools were intended for at all? What many parents- and more than a few teachers- don’t realize is that compulsory schooling was not mandated to educate but to train obedient workers.
Don’t believe me? How about some history?
150 years ago, during the Industrial Revolution, factories were popping up everywhere and people like John D. Rockefeller were desperately in need of workers to run them. Unfortunately for them, however, people weren’t looking for jobs. At this point in time, the vast majority of Americans were self-sustaining. They grew their own crops, built their own houses, made their own clothes and toiletries, and bought only what was absolutely necessary at the general store. Most children learned their skills from helping with the family or apprenticeships and only attended a one-room schoolhouse for the few months out of the year they were least needed at home. Compared to modern society, these people were much more resourceful than we are today because they did everything for themselves, and it worked for them.
Since Rockefeller, among others, was a wealthy man, he had much clout with the government, who certainly saw the benefits of what he was trying to accomplish.
Enter compulsory schooling, when children began to be required, by law, to attend school. Students were instructed in specific subjects for a set period of time everyday, regardless of how relevant it was to their lives, and they were expected to drop what they were doing, no matter whether they wanted to continue doing what they had started or not, and change classes at the ringing of the bell. Students were also conditioned to blindly obey commands, as this would be beneficial for the foremen of these factories. Individual thinkers were not needed nor wanted in this setting. Factory owners wanted obedient, hard-working employees who did not mind the day-to-day monotony of what they would be doing and who did not rock the boat.
You may be thinking, but that was 150 years ago.
When I first began to read up on this, I thought the same thing. But let’s take a closer look at some common practices and see how they just might reflect this Industrial-era mindset of not-so-long ago.
School uniforms (conformity)
Mass instruction regulated by the government (conformity)
Senseless busywork (obedience)
Separate subjects which are to end immediately at the sound of the bell in order to move on to the next thing (obedience, conformity)
Singling out those who learn differently (conformity, elimination of individualized thinking)
Politicians love to talk about education reform- especially this time of year- but how sincere are they? Before any true improvements can be made, the true intention of compulsory schooling needs to change. And, honestly, I don’t think that will ever happen.
In an attempt to make your life immensely easier, today I’m sharing with you some wisdom I’ve gained throughout my years of utilizing unit studies that I wish someone had shared with me. Through much trial and error, tweaking of curriculum, and, yes, burnout, I’ve reached a place in my life where I can honestly say that, yes, unit studies do, indeed, make life much more simple. This did not come easily, and only you can know what will work for your family and what will not. With that being said, here are the most practical tips I can offer you with regards to successfully implementing thematic units into your homeschool routine.
1. Unit studies are cross-curricular. Use that to your advantage. One of the biggest mistakes I made when I first began to use unit studies was to use them on top of everything else we were doing. Instead of using this method to cover our science, social studies, art, etc., we would complete a full day of “school” and then add on a unit study for “fun.” Admittedly, at first it was a novel idea, and we enjoyed the activities because they were so different from the constant seatwork we were used to; however, very quickly it became too much and the “fun” wore off and was replaced by burnout, which led to sending my children back to public school for two years. When I decided to homeschool again, I was determined to use unit studies but in a much more relaxed manner. After much reading and research, I realized that unit studies sufficiently cover every required (and quite a few extra) subjects, with exception to phonics, grammar, and math- and even that is not written in stone. Some families are able to incorporate enough phonics, grammar, and math into their lessons to satisfy those requirements, as well.
2. If you choose to supplement, keep it simple. I am absolutely convinced that there is no need to supplement any area beyond math and some language arts. While these subjects are included in many unit study activities, most families feel more comfortable giving these subjects a little boost. My children have a “table time” most mornings where they will complete a math lesson and either a spelling lesson or work on memorizing passages from great literature. (We are currently using How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare, which is phenomenal.) However, depending on what we will be covering on any given day in our unit study, we do not complete these lessons every single day. If I know that we will be doing a lot of writing or copywork or even some grammar lessons in our unit that day, we will only do math at table time. If I have a math lesson incorporated into what we will be pursuing, we skip the morning math lesson. My children are especially excited on those rare days that both of these subjects are covered in our activities and they get to completely skip their table time lessons. If your child will be sufficiently covering these subjects in your unit study lessons, there is no need to be redundant. Mix it up a bit. It will be refreshing for both you and your kids!
3. Don’t go overboard! Less is more. I can get a bit overexcited when creating our weekly lesson plans. If you ever happen to catch a glimpse of my lesson plan books, you will see that they are filled with eraser marks and entire weeks scratched out. I don’t know about you, but when it comes to choosing activities for my children, I’m like a kid in a candy store. I want to do it all. Everything looks so good, and I don’t want my kids (or me) to miss out on anything. So…I begin penciling in enough activities to keep us busy for twelve hours a day…until I look at it again a few hours later and realize that it’s never going to work. You know your kids best, so this is a great time to use that asset. Only you know how much your children will be able to comfortably handle in one day. At this point, besides our unit study read-aloud, I only schedule two related activities per day. That’s it. I know some people may be gasping at this statement, but I say it without guilt. I know my kids. You know yours. If your kids want to do four activities a day, go for it. If your child gets overwhelmed by any more than one per day, that’s great, too. One of the best things about homeschooling is the freedom to tailor our children’s education to fit their individual needs.
4. Don’t try to do every single listed activity. This ties in with #3. I promise you, if you try to complete every single suggestion, the unit study will get old fast. When choosing your activities, consider not only the activities your kids will enjoy, but also what you are comfortable with, as well. No one wants a cranky homeschool mom! While your kids may love to paint, if the thought of the mess stresses you out, skip it. There will be other opportunities for your kids in the future. (Perhaps you could even hold off on it until the summer and then move the activity outside and do it just for fun.) Stick to those suggestions that will work for all of you.
5. Don’t try to read every single book listed. As with the activities, the books are merely suggestions to get you started. You may decide not to use any books on the list and use alternatives you dig up yourself. That is perfectly fine. As the saying goes, use your curriculum…don’t let it use you.
6. If your children get bored with the topic, plan a new unit. Your son may love snakes. He may jump at the chance to memorize their names, study their habitats, create snakes out of clay, and calculate the size difference between an Egyptian cobra and a timber rattlesnake. If, however, his eyes start to glaze over after covering this unit for several weeks, it may be time to move on. Don’t destroy your child’s love of a particular subject by insisting that it be completed through to the very end. There are so many amazing things that God has created for us to learn about. This is the perfect chance to explore what else is out there!
7. Establish a general daily routine instead of an ironclad time schedule. I’m a clock-watcher. I always need to know what time it is, and I LOVE to create schedules and lists. (I guarantee that my kids will back me up on that.) One thing I’ve learned is the utter necessity of flexibility. Make general goals for starting and finishing times for your homeschool day, but accept the fact that things may not always go as planned and be okay with that. It’s not the end of the world if you finish at 2:00 instead of 12:30. Since I am officially homeschooling nine kids this year, I try to get my elementary age children done by lunchtime in order to keep the rest of the day open for the secondary age kids who do most of their work independently but do require my help sometimes. There are usually a couple times a week that I do end up working with my younger children after lunch, but it’s not a big deal because our routine allows for these circumstances.
8. It is not necessary to cover every subject every day. Just as life is not broken down into subjects, it is not necessary to break school down in this way, either. While I do include subjects covered per activity in the units I’ve written, I merely do this for record-keeping purposes. When planning our lessons, I do not pay attention to what subjects we will be covering but how each activity pertains to what we are reading each day. Sometimes you may cover history for weeks on end with only a few science lessons thrown in here and there. That is perfectly okay. If you think about it, kids are great at pursuing the sciences on their own through digging in the dirt, trying to build aerodynamic paper airplanes, and watching animal documentaries. Sometimes the tables are turned, and you may spend weeks doing science-related activities, while only covering history or social studies here and there. It balances itself out. And just as with science, kids don’t seem to have a problem touching on this area on their own through running errands with you, discussing current news topics, and running to the map to see where Fiji is. This can be true with any subject. Language arts can be covered through writing stories and emails and playing Mad Libs. Math is easily covered through playing games, handling money, and baking cookies. Don’t ever fret about going light on a subject here and there. Those topics still exist in the world around you, and they will happen naturally through simply living life.
9. Have fun! If at some point you find yourself dreading doing school, shake things up a bit and have a movie day, a park day, or take your kids for a walk. Remember that it is not a wasted day because life is learning and family relationships must always come first!
I hope this list may be a blessing to you. Just as each family is different, the same can be said about each homeschool. These tips are meant to be a guide, but it is up to you to decide how best to serve your children’s needs. Have fun and cherish every moment of your homeschooling journey. It will come to an end all too soon.